Arron Banks faces Brexit donation probe

Electoral Commission to rule whether donations to Leave side broke campaign finance rules chairman Aaron Banks was instrumental in turning out the Brexit vote
Leave supporters hit the streets in the run-up to the 2016 vote 
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukip’s biggest donor, Arron Banks, is to be investigated by the Electoral Commission over donations he made during last year’s EU referendum.

Banks, a multi-millionaire insurance tycoon, helped to bankroll the unofficial Leave.EU group, which is credited with mobilising millions of people who do not typically vote and ultimately swinging the result in favour of Leave.

Following a months-long campaign of inquiry led by Open Democracy on Brexit financing, questions emerged over where some of the Leave side’s money had come from and whether Banks specifically had acted as a conduit for foreign actors to influence the referendum. It has been reported by British media that Banks contributed as much as £9m to the Leave cause.

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In a statement issued by the commission, investigators said they would try to determine whether Better for the Country Limited, a company that lists Banks as a director was “the true source of donations” made to Leave campaigners in its name, “or if it was acting as an agent”.

It will also examine whether Banks, who was also Leave.EU chairman, was the “true source of loans reported by a referendum campaigner in his name”. And it will ask wether the contributions violated campaign finace rules set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and the European Union Referendum Act 2015.

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Speaking to the BBC, the Electoral Commission's Bob Posner said: “Questions over the legitimacy of funding provided to campaigners at the referendum risks causing harm to voters’ confidence.”

“It is therefore in the public interest that the Electoral Commission seeks to ascertain whether or not impermissible donations were given to referendum campaigners and if any other related offences have taken place,” he said.

Pro-EU MPs have expressed concern about foreign interference in Western elections, with parliamentary investigations looking into whether Russia had a hand in influencing the referendum or June’s general election.

Banks has responded to the investigation by attacking the “Remain Electoral Commission” which he said “isn’t up to the job and consists of political placements from all main parties”.

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